Here is a redux of an old article I wrote years ago that is very relevant for all of us today. God has promised to be with us here and now. We can experience HIM through prayer for sure! So here is A Basic Guide to Prayer & Meditation:
Here at HCCI we promote prayer because we believe in it. The use of prayer has long been considered highly therapeutic and this has been affirmed numerous times by various professional studies as well as personal anecdotes spoken and written about for more than 2000 years. Perhaps you know someone firsthand who prays regularly like a grandparent or a coworker or a friend and have shared how prayer works for them.
Prayer helps those struggling with anxiety or depression. It helps to gain access to needed wisdom for you with your family or other life situations and it deepens your own personal connection or relationship with God. Prayer is a therapeutic exercise that anyone can benefit from at anytime. Many people who wake up in the middle of the night use prayer to occupy their thoughts and get through a restless period.
In the Christian’s life, the basis for praying comes from the Bible. The number of people who are reported praying in this ancient text is too numerous to list here. Some names you might recognize include Jesus Himself who prayed a lot both when He was alone and when He was with his followers, the apostles like Peter and John and even Paul who wrote in his letters, “pray continually”.
The apostle Paul once wrote a letter (Philippians) while he was in prison. In that letter he admitted he struggled with anxiety and he gave instruction on how to cope with anxiety. A major part of his coping strategy was prayer. He wrote, ” Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).
Clearly Paul prayed all the time and it helped him cope with a difficult life. Jesus gave (among other things) the famous Lord’s Prayer as an example of how to pray. In His darkest hour, just before being arrested and crucified, Jesus gathered his closest friends to pray with Him. He ended up praying by himself because they couldn’t stay awake. Nonetheless, prayer helped Him have the courage to face the coming agony of his crucifixion.
While there have been volumes and volumes of books written about prayer, this is meant to be your basic start-up guide. Anyone would certainly benefit from further reading and study but all that work is not required to benefit from prayer. It is meant to be simple and easy. In fact, part of the profound power of prayer is because it is so simple to do at any moment.
Simply defined, prayer is an intimate conversation with the Almighty God. Begin reverently but confidently. God is after all God. He is also accessible through Christ (God presented Himself to us in the Person of Jesus Christ). You can begin in your own words; in your own voice. Being eloquent is not required only sincerity and the smallest measure of faith. You can say “Dear Jesus…” or “Father God…” or your own words.
Early in Church history a specific prayer pattern became a common approach to praying that can be especially therapeutic. It has four parts that can guide anyone in meditation and prayer. Follow these steps routinely and eventually you will routinely sense God’s presence in your life and your own style of praying will develop. This will become a constant source for wisdom, strength and peace. Above all, it will become the basis for a close friendship with God Himself.
1) Read out loud a scheduled Bible passage
This could be while you are reading through Psalms (the very center of the Bible in the Old Testament), the Gospels (the first four books of the New Testament) or one of those letters by Paul the Apostle (also in the New Testament). Read out loud until a word or phrase speaks to you or is impressed on your thoughts. This might happen very early in your reading or it might be a little later after a chapter or more. Many Bible apps for your smartphone or online have reading plans to help you if you desire. When you feel impressed by this word or phrase move on to step two.
2) Meditate on that Word or Phrase.
This is about quietly focusing on the meaning of this Word for you at this moment. This isn’t necessarily a strong theological study. It is more allowing its message become more targeted to where you are at today. An excellent way to initiate this process is to begin slowly repeating the phrase out loud. As you say it, a more complete thought forms. When this thought develops, write it down or make a mental note. Trust that God is forming this in you. It can be a way that God speaks to us—using His Word the Bible to influence our thoughts.
3) Begin Praying About This Thought.
Now is your time to pray; talk out loud or quietly in your mind to God. This is where “Dear Lord Jesus…” or “Heavenly Father…” helps you start your talk. Speak your thoughts to the Lord God but also quietly listen for His influence.
You might even feel or sense God’s presence in these moments. Trust He hears you and values you. Expect He has more for you to think about or know about yourself or other people in your life. Listen for His reassurance, for His affirmation of His love. Listen for His discipline or redirection of your choices perhaps. Give thanks for this time or His direction or this Word He has now spoken to you through this prayer and meditation time.
4) Contemplate God’s Message to You.
Little explanation is needed here. This step is just what it says. Be still. Contemplate on all of the above. Restrain any escalating thoughts and take slow, deep breaths to stay relaxed. Be sure to express gratitude and remember God’s message to you from this moment.
The above four steps are excellent for practicing and experiencing God’s presence and also becoming more tuned into His Word while getting a break from your daily worries or stressors. It is merely a basic start-up guide. Practice prayer a lot and you will gain confidence and experience the Almighty-personally. What can be more therapeutic than that?